Internets, meet Penelope. She’s a potbelly pig. And Cartwheel Farm is now her home.
Yes, James and I impulse purchased a pig on Friday evening.
Why do I have a feeling no one’s surprised by this statement?
Ever since buying this house, we’ve daydreamed about what barnyard critters we wanted to join our family. Thanks to our barn, we have the infrastructure for livestock, one of the many reasons we fell in love with Cartwheel Farm. A gentleness, kindness, and respect for animals is something James and I value deeply in people, so it’s no surprise that we believe that our daughters will benefit greatly from the presence of some animal friends.
Chickens were the first and most obvious choice. (One of our barn stalls had already been converted into an amazing chicken coop by the previous owners).They arrived very quickly upon our own arrival.
We’ll always have dogs, though our house, not the barn, is their residence.
We looked into sheep. But they are way too aloof. I like my animals needy and social and dependent. I like to be bonded and connected to them. Sheep? They wouldn’t give a dang about the humans of Cartwheel Farm.
Goats eat everything. And their kicking and/or head-butting freaked me out with the girls.
Horses, maybe, if the girls have the interest and willingness to handle all the horse maintenance. So ask me in five years or so.
Ducks need water and would make a hot mess of the chicken coop. Peacocks (Momar’s suggestions) scream and can be nasty to people. Reindeer (an animal we’re hoping will eventually call CWF home) require crazy permitting and are very expensive. We’re holding out on them for the time being.
We’re planning to do llamas and/or alpacas, since then I’ll have a fiber animal for my knitting obsessions, plus the sociability I demand of my dependents, but we need to build (and by “we,” I mean “James”) a fence in our meadow to accommodate them. Plus, they are herd animals, so we have to get more than one. And they are just bigger, more expensive beasts to consider adding to the family.
But potbelly pigs? Turns out we were already well-equipped to welcome a pig.
James had suggested we get pigs months ago, as they are super smart, friendly creatures. Much like dogs, they really connect with people and can make very sweet additions to a family.
I was initially turned off, as I had a vision of a 500 pound hog lurching around the barn. And Sunny did not respond well to those enormous beasts when we visited our local CSA.
I had heard of miniature pigs, but thought that they had to live inside. Given that I am opposed to life with an indoor cat (I just can’t handle the litterboxes. Outdoor cat? Barn cat? No problem!), I couldn’t fathom an indoor swine, complete with litterbox.
Fast forward to last Monday when I was in a work meeting and my colleague began talking about her neighbor’s adorable, small, potbelly pig. She showed me a photograph of their seven year old daughter joyously holding this animal, and I was instantly smitten.
Of course I took to Craigslist to see what might be available in our area. I didn’t find too much, and didn’t hear back from anyone that had anything promising until a phone call on Friday afternoon from a woman an hour east of us who had a one year old, black, 35 lb, female, potbelly pig for sale. James and I rallied, threw the kids in the car and headed out to meet her, with no expectations of actually coming home with a pig. We figured we get the lay of the land, ask questions, and get a real sense of what was required for pig ownership.
Welp, notice that we are now pig owners.
We were so taken with her – her wagging tail, her snorting, her gentle nature, the way she gingerly ate food right out of the kids’ hands and they mutually squealed in delight – that I told James I was sold on the idea but that he had the final say. I figured we’d have to come back later anyway as we had not come equipped with a pet carrier for transport. I headed up to the car with Courtland to change her diaper, and James emerged 15 minutes later, with Sunny, and a cat carrier filled with Penelope. Apparently he decided he wanted her. And so the woman we purchased her from gave us the carrier as part of the deal.
She’s a 35 pound, year old potbelly pig. While she’ll continue to grow for the next two years, she probably won’t be much bigger than 50 pounds. That remains to be seen as Penelope, or Penny (as Sunny calls her), has been charged with turning our compost pile and clearing our lawn of the fallen apples that keep breaking our lawnmower. She is more than willing to oblige these tasks. Though she has already demonstrated her dislike of kale, green beans and carrots. Apparently Ursa has a monopoly on carrot obsession that transcends mortality. Penny’s so ugly that she’s endearingly adorable. And we like her. So very much.
She lives up in the barn in one of the stalls next to the chicken coop, in a dog crate filled with fleece blankets for warmth. James is building her an insulated dog house, and I’m knitting her wool sweaters to survive our chilly Vermont winters. She’s been an incredibly easy, entertaining addition thus far. Expect many more stories and pictures of Miss Penny to follow.
We realize that our grief over the loss of Ursa is fueling much of our decision making these days. We have a puppy joining our family in two weeks, and James was really hoping that we could get alpacas immediately (though I think I’ve staved off his impulses with a reality check about the fence-building process). We are still grieving and I am punched in the gut daily by the gapping hole in our family since she left us. I miss her more than I can say, and while I know that these new animals will never fill that hole, I am relishing in the joy and amusement that they bring. The way I feel my heart make room and ache just a little bit less.
Ursa began our love of caretaking eight years ago. It’s fitting that she’s inspired us to continue to expand and love, even in her absence.
Now enjoy the magic of Penelope in action with the girls.